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Wellness

Mass(age) Tourism: Ayurvedic therapy for anxiety in India

Top of the list of the things that I wanted to do on my trip to Goa was to immerse myself in the traditions of ayurvedic therapy during a lazy week on Palolem Beach.

I went online to find a practitioner, and as soon as I saw ‘psychosomatic massage’ I knew that I had to go outside my comfort zone and give this authentically Indian experience a try.

Ayurveda is a system of medicine that originated in the Indian subcontinent, often referred to as the ‘science of life,’ based on its translation from Sanskrit of Ayu (life) and Veda (science or knowledge). This method is over 3000 years old and it focuses on full-body healing.

Pain before pleasure

I booked my massage with a man named Ranjeet, who was described as a healer on TripAdvisor by the many travellers who swore by his methods. I was fascinated by the techniques he must use – especially as one woman said that the ‘relief was worthy of the pain’. How painful was this therapy going to be?

As a highly anxious person, I’m always looking for ways to unwind and reduce the intrusive thoughts in my mind, so I was prepared to experience a little pain…

Always check the reviews

For safety reasons, it’s important to always check the reviews before you book a massage as sexual assault does happen in rogue clinics in Goa. As I was a solo woman traveller I wanted to keep myself quite literally, in safe hands!

A small dark room

I had a degree of trepidation as I approached the hut, the place I was going to get my mind, body and spirit back in balance. I entered the small dark room, containing only a chair and hard bed not knowing what to expect. However, Ranjeet completely put me at ease – very important when you’re a woman in a room alone! He had a great sense of humour and I quickly realised mid-treatment that you have to have that to be an Ayurvedic therapist.

I do consider myself a ‘massage tourist’ as I’ve tried therapies all over the world – from Balinese massage to cupping therapy so I love to contrast different styles. Psychosomatic massage is certainly different to anything I’ve tried before – a few elements were similar to getting a seeing hands massage in Nepal – but it’s a whole different genre.

For a start, it was very long – 90 minutes and he asks you about what you want to get out of it, with the aim to release the tense emotions (blockages) that have built up in your body. It’s important not to eat for a couple of hours beforehand, as if you have, and they work on your stomach then your breakfast may make a reappearance.

‘Emotional Blockages’

A part of the job as an Ayurvedic healer is to analyse the tension that they feel in your body. He told me that the left side of the neck represents pain caused by a woman and the right is for men. The female pain was older than 10 years and the masculine tension was very fresh and much more pronounced.

I hadn’t had an argument with a female friend since my early twenties but my partner had inadvertently caused me grief on the trip. He’d been very ill during and after we trekked to Everest Base Camp and then again in India where he had his bag stolen. So yes, his theory was right but it could be a lucky guess, based on my age and sexuality.

Another diagnosis was that my lymphatic drainage system wasn’t working as I didn’t drink enough water. Apparently, dehydration makes skin more sensitive so that was something that I didn’t know.

‘Healing’ hands

Once the treatment began, it was incredibly vigorous as it’s a deliberate attempt to create heat from friction to make your muscles more malleable. The peak of the pain came when he stuck his finger under my armpit which was like nothing I’d ever experienced before or since. Although if I’d experienced childbirth, I probably wouldn’t be saying that! Helpfully, Ranjeet warns you when pain is imminent.

He surmised that I’d suffered from depression in the past and he identified the pressure points for stress, anxiety and anger, which he then pressed – hard. It took me through the gamut of negative emotions and then back to relief when he stopped let go after what felt like an incredible length of time.

Ranjeet refers to the agony of the massage as ‘sweet pain’ and encourages you to laugh and cry to let go of your feelings. As a deeply repressed British person who is wound pretty tight, I could do neither of those things! It took all of my willpower not to walk out the door.

The Aftermath

You do need a few sessions to work out the various knots and embrace the intensity of the treatment. Apparently, it hurts less a second time, and I would love to try it again to see if I could learn to accept the pain and release it more successfully! That evening I felt slightly weepy and light-headed but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.

He told me that I would be in pain the next day and I certainly was – I also had small circular bruise marks on my skin due to the amount of pressure on my blood vessels. The bruises were a sign that he’d really worked hard on my ‘blockages’, so I wore them as a badge of honour.

Treat Yourself

Even though I felt like I was a long way from absorbing the spirituality that pervades everyday life in India, embracing Ayurvedic medicine felt like a big step toward it. I’d only been in India for two months at this point, so I was just an infant traveller in this mammoth country.

Anyone that backpacks around India deserves a massage – journeys are long and sometimes uncomfortable, at times you have very little personal space and sometimes figuring everything out can be stressful at times.

It’s a wonderful reward after long days that it takes to absorb the overwhelming and intriguing sights of India. You might even inadvertently heal something along the way. Ayurvedic massage is a uniquely painful bodily experience that your mind and muscles will never forget

Food North America Travel Health & Wellness

A Wellness Girl’s Guide to San Diego

We’re not as woo-woo as LA, but San Diego is a health and wellness mecca in its own right. There’s no shortage of fresh pressed juice, boutique fitness studios and holistic spas in this city. For those planning a weekend getaway with wellness top of mind, San Diego is one of the best places to go. Here are a few tried and true local restaurants and activities to make your trip a breeze, from one wellness girl to another. 

Eat & Drink

Donna Jean

The best things in life aren’t very complicated. Donna Jean has a simple menu that happens to be 100% vegan. Best known for their thin crust pizzas, Donna Jean also has handcrafted pastas, salads, and sweets on their seasonal menu. Their plant-covered front patio feels like a secret hideaway, a quiet reprieve from the nearby bustling city and Balboa Park. A glass of wine with crusty focaccia bread under twinkling string lights…it’s the perfect atmosphere for a casual, comfortable and cozy dinner. 

GOODONYA

Everything at the organic North County eatery GOODONYA will feel good in ya, thanks to high-quality ingredients. Stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner: with a menu this nice you might want to drop by twice! Morning meals include eggs and scrambles, avocado toasts, a coconut yogurt parfait and more. Nosh on organic Mexican dishes, bone broth and soup made from scratch, giant colorful salads, wraps, and similar fare. Wash it all down with biodynamic wine, beer, kombucha, low sugar cocktails, or the restaurant’s own electrolyte and mineral hydration blend. They’ve also got a daily happy hour, as if there wasn’t enough to feel good about.  

Parakeet Cafe

If probiotics and adaptogens often make their way into your vocabulary, you’ve come to the right place. Parakeet Cafe has three locations in San Diego, all overwhelmingly pretty in pink. Start your morning with a specialty coffee, ranging from turmeric and beet lattes to mushroom elixir and cacao blends. Personalize your coffee with almond, coconut or oat milk, collagen, MCT oil, and more…all this all before the food menu! Breakfast is served all day, so you can enjoy matcha waffles or shakshuka anytime. Lunch includes salads, soups and bowls, all packed with organic greens, vegetables, and add-on sides to make your meal just the way you want it. 

JuneShine

Hard kombucha is taking over the city, and it all started with JuneShine. Their honest alcohol is made with honey, green tea, organic spices, and juice to make delicious flavors like blood orange mint, pomegranate basil, and chili mango. Grab a glass or try a flight at their beach-inspired tasting room near the city. Or drive twenty minutes North to JuneShine Ranch, featuring brewery tours and a full food menu created by certified nutritionists. 

You & Yours

Undoubtedly one of the most Instagrammable places in the city, You & Yours is the perfect mix of trendy and charming. This female-founded distillery makes gin and vodka onsite, which means a fresh-as-it-can-get cocktail for you. You won’t find artificial syrups or mix-ins here; the drink menu offers a unique mix of fruit and veggie inspired cocktails, complete with adorable names. Little Bunny Foo Foo (gin with carrot, turmeric, ginger, and lemon) and Rhubarbie’s Dream House (gin with rhubarb, raspberry, lemon, bitters, and pink peppercorn) are just a few options. 

Rest & Restore 

Encinitas Meditation Gardens

Unwind surrounded by lush greenery and a stunning ocean view at this self-realization fellowship in North County. Look for three large gold dome-topped towers on the Pacific Coast Highway. The nearby meditation gardens are open to the public, offering walking paths and several spots to sit and be still next to koi ponds, cactus, beautiful birds of paradise, and other colorful plants. 

Citrine Spa

Tucked away on an adorable block of Point Loma is Citrine Spa. The setting is sweet and inviting, and the clean beauty facials are just as soothing. The Citrine esthetician Dawn will curate natural products specific for your skin type. Enjoy a series of cleansers, masks, peels, and even gentle microdermabrasion with an essential oil shoulder and arm massage. After your serene facial, keep that refreshed feeling going by visiting the tea bar and plant shop across the street. 

Leo by Liv3

This picture-perfect salon will make sure your nails are ready for a close-up. Offering manicures, pedicures and massages, Leo sources non-toxic treatment products as much as possible. The team here is known for creating expert nail art, both minimalist chic and bright and bold. Following through with their mission statement ‘be good to yourself,’ Leo also offers free postcards: write down a reminder for some self care, mail them to home and smile when you get something other than a bill in your mailbox. 

ALCHEMĒ

A medical spa that offers beauty services for the inside and out, ALCHEMĒ utilizes treatments both cutting edge and ancient medicine. Aesthetic medicine services range from plasma therapies to photo facials and skin tightening technologies. For something a little less futuristic, opt for a Chinese medicine treatment like cupping or gua sha, or simply consult with a functional medicine practitioner. There’s no appointment necessary for a vitamin injection at the shot bar if you’re looking to get an extra boost of energy, ward off an oncoming cold, or even to help prevent a hangover. 

Saffron & Sage

This holistic health club has everything a wellness girl could ever want. Get pampered with acupuncture, cupping or a massage. Get moving with a yoga class, or mindful with a meditation therapy session. Get advice from a nutritionist, psychologist, or life coach. Saffron & Sage also sells clean beauty products, minerals, essential oil diffusers, and more goodies to take home as a reminder of your experience. Spend some time in a calming, multi-sensory space filled with like-minded locals who dive deep into health and wellness. 

Break a Sweat

Babes Who Sweat

This event series makes fitness fun, with indoor and outdoor workouts all over San Diego. Check their Facebook page for information on upcoming events; past sweat sessions include spin classes, bootcamps, yoga classes, and stand-up paddleboarding, and typically include a goodie bag from local wellness brands.  Meet fellow health and fitness lovers through this inclusive, friendly community. 

Convention Center Steps

Looking to really get your heart rate up? Walk or run up the open-air convention center steps downtown: there’s nearly 100 steps on the grand staircase. Your reward is an epic view of the Gaslamp District one direction, and the San Diego Bay on the other.  There are several shorter staircases around the convention center, perfect for working on sprints, lunges, or similar bodyweight exercises. 

Torrey Pines Hike

Get close to nature at Torrey Pines State Reserve, covering around 2,000 acres of coastal land. Open from 7:15 a.m. to sunset, the trails here are great for newbies or more experienced hikers. Bask in dramatic ocean views, scenic overlooks, coastal plants and the area’s eponymous pine trees. Check the Torrey Pines website for more information on parking and entrance fees. 

Stand-Up Paddle-boarding

There are plenty of places to get your paddle-board on. But the most quintessential San Diego spot may be taking to the water around Coronado Island. SUP Coronado offers rentals and group tours, leading around the Coronado Bay Bridge with views of the city skyline. Sit, stand, and hopefully catch a glimpse of sea life during your session. 

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